I never knew how old Kirby was. He was found on the street and our vet placed him at “somewhere over ten” when I adopted him. He was “somewhere over ten” for four years as I never wanted to admit he was aging. He was the most perfect therapy dog and companion for those four years and I cherished every moment until his last breath. He taught us all about strength and courage, surviving eleven operations in those four years, to only be able to run and play for a few short months before he left us.
Senior dogs have so much to teach us and those we serve.
They teach children that when people and dogs grow older they still have value and deserve to be respected.
They teach their owners that learning is for a lifetime and you never “stop” teaching your dog.
They teach us that age is truly a number and often when you have no idea the age of your dog, maybe that’s better.
When Petey was brought to me, the rescue said he was ten years old. Well, he was ten but only for another two months and then he turned eleven!
This month I celebrate two years of the privilege of being the one who adopted Petey. Almost thirteen years old now, he is the epitome of graceful aging. While he may be almost deaf and have double cataracts and of course no teeth and a crazy formed jaw, he is just perfect!
There is just something about this tiny four pound dog that captures the heart and soul of everyone who meets him. And even those he has never met. I was in one of our partner health facilities the other day and a patient came up to me and said “You’re Petey’s mommy! I saw him on TV and just can’t get his face out of my mind.”
What is it about this little dog and so many other seniors I have fallen in love with?
Perhaps it’s their grace and ability to pull you in.
Especially those dogs adopted when already older. They just know they have been given another chance for a great life and some dogs, like Petey, are experiencing a second puppyhood. He plays and stretches and jumps like a puppy for a brief few minutes, and then falls down to take a nap!
Older dogs can learn anything and everything they need to pass the Pet Partner evaluation. Some dogs, yes, do need accommodations to do some of the elements in a different way, perhaps because they have arthritis. But it can be done.
The only drawback is we don’t have them in our lives as long … we don’t know what they were like as puppies … we don’t have a long memory of their touch and smell.
But they are always sent to us for a reason. Perhaps to remind us that life is to be cherished. That every day is a gift.
And they are always grateful.
So please don’t give up on your senior dogs. Once they reach a certain age they may be the perfect dogs to become Love Dogs.